Most Wanted! Minnie Riperton – Les Fleur (GRT)
Although mostly remembered for her 1975 single ‘Lovin’ You’, what would ever best describe Chicago native songstress Minnie Riperton than ‘Les Fleur’? I gotta say I never understood its spelling though. With ‘Les Fleur’ meaning ‘The Flowers’ in French, although with the ‘s’ for plural missing for some reason at the end. As for the content in itself, here we have nothing but what stands as an influential masterpiece which Broken Beat dons 4Hero eventually covered 30 years later on Talkin’ Loud.
Strangely enough, it didn’t do that much by the time of its release back in 1971. No more than Minnie Riperton‘s ‘Come To My Garden’ debut-album did as a matter of fact. And this despite the presence of luminaries such as Ramsey Lewis on piano and Cleveland Eaton on bass. Not to mention Maurice White of the Earth Wind & Fire fame on drums. And Charles Stepney responsible for the production work.
The soothing ‘Les Fleur’ nevertheless stands as one of Minnie Riperton‘s signature songs. And I suppose we all may understand why when givin’ it a listen…
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A Chicago, IL native, Minnie Riperton was the youngest of an 8-children family. Embracing the arts at an ealy age, she first began with ballet and modern dance. Although her parents who recognized her vocal prowess encouraged her to pursue voice and music.
While studying, Minnie soon showed an interest in Rhythm & Blues, Soul & Rock. Eventually getting her first professional singing engagement at the age of 15 with girl group The Gems. And although The Gems had a limited success, it happened to get a good outlet for Riperton. The lady singing back ups for luminaries such as Etta James, Fontanella Bass (‘Rescue Me’) and Ramsey Lewis. This before becoming the lead vocalist with Rotary Connection in the second half of the 60’s. A group with whom she would sing the memorable ‘I Am The Black Gold Of The Sun’ back in 1971. Soon after embarking on a solo career.
Her first solo album – ‘Come To My Garden’ – despite being commercially unsuccessful, is nevertheless considered nowadays as a masterpiece. And more precisely ‘Les Fleur’ which, along with ‘Lovin’ You’, stands among her signature songs. With thanks to producer Charles Stepney who was to soon after collaborate with Earth Wind & Fire mastermind, Maurice White. Their association givin’ birth to countless gems. From ‘Sing A Song’, ‘Getaway’ or ‘Can’t Hide Love’ for E,W&F. To ‘Free’ for Deniece Williams or ‘I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love’ for The Emotions to name but a few…
1973 marked quite a turn for a then mom of two kids livin’ in Gainesville, FL. Signing a record deal on the heels of a demo that got sent to Epic, she relocated to Los Angeles, CA. Eventually recording her second album – ‘Perfect Angel’ – which her husband – Richard Rudolph co-produced with Stevie Wonder under a cameo guise for contractual reasons. ‘Perfect Angel’ turned out to be one of Minnie Riperton‘s biggest selling albums. Spanning gems such as ‘Reasons’, ‘Take A Little Trip’ and ‘Seeing You This Way’. Then, as Epic was ready to move on to the next record, Rudolph convinced them to release another single. The latter being ‘Lovin’ You’ which perfectly showcased that 5-octave vocal range, enabling her to sing in ‘whistle register’…
Her third album – ‘Adventures In Paradise’ – didn’t quite generate the same following. Even though Riperton reached another vocal peak with the deeper than deep ‘Inside My Love’ co-written with Leon Ware. A track many radio Pop radio programmers refused to play because of its lyrical content which they found provocative. And no more did its follow-up (‘Stay In Love’) as a matter of fact which would be her final one for Epic back in 1977.
Switching to Capitol, she recorded a 5th and very last solo album – ‘Minnie’ – despite the progression of cancer which she’d been diagnosed with a couple of years before.
Minnie Riperton sadly died 2 months after its release. She passed on, aged 31, while lying in her husband’s arms on Jul. 12, 1979 at 10:00am at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA.
Interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA, her epitaph is the opening line of her most famous song… “Lovin’ you is easy cause you’re beautiful.”